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Vegan diet as G-d’s original command+ the Flood


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tevet 6, 5775
When man and woman were created G-d gave them the order to eat from any plant and tree that has seed (Bereshis 1, 29). When they were still in Eden it seems that humakind was meant to be vegan i.e. not only not eating meat, fish but also no dairy products. The G-d gave Noach all clean animals as food as well (Bereshis 9, 3). Questions: 1. Why did G-d change the original command from vegan diet to meat-eating diet? I’ve heard that the flood made the soil empoverished of its minerals and the plants can no longer give all the required nutrients. Is this the reason? If so then why not implementing another kind of punishment other than a flood so that G-d would not change the original diet? 2. Why did G-d allow killing animals for food when in the world the come vegan diet is expected even to the extent that animals will be vegan as well? 3. Most importantly, nutritionists say that a vegan diet can not provide the vitamin B12 which is very important for human health. Vitamin B12 is not present in any plant source but only in the soil itself. By washing vegetables thoroughly we wash off B12 vitamin. Should we eat soil then? Some say that some algae have B12 but are they to be considered plants that bear seeds in it or just herbs which were given to animals originally (Bereshis 1,30). Briefly, how can G-d prescribe vegan diet when there is no B12 in plants and trees? Is B12 to be found in the Tree of life that we cannot eat from? Thank you
1. The most common reasons given for the allowance to eat meat after the flood are: a. Because the vegetation was destroyed in the flood. b. The environment, air etc. was damaged in the flood and man needed more nutrition (proteins) [Rambam]. c. Because man’s physical and spiritual well-being go together, and with that generation’s spiritual failings, came physical failings, as well (so man needed more nutrition/proteins). d. In that generation which was sleeping with animals and “eating” humans, God wanted to clarify the enormous difference between the two: humans (who have a Godly soul)-you marry, animals- you eat! The last two answers, suggested by Rav Kook, answer your question (he already wrote extensively about vegetarianism 115 years ago). 2. There are countless cases in history and in life where an unfortunate situation temporarily (!) necessitates a “second-best” approach (in Hebrew: “bdi’eved”) which meets the challenge better. 3. I am not a dietician qualified to answer your last question. I can only suggest that perhaps our present hygienic sanitary cleanliness obligates us to wash our fruits and vegetables, but in the more primitive world, man may have developed some type of immunity and was less susceptible to dirt and germs than we are, and didn’t need to wash his produce as much.
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